Cross-winds prove a challenge in Guam
Much like Scotland with its prevailing winds, the island of Guam presents a similar blustery challenge to golfers of all skill levels, albeit under tropical conditions.
With a land mass 51.5 km long and 14.5 km at its widest point, the cross-winds swirl across the island from the Philippine Sea to the Pacific Ocean (and vice versa), creating challenging conditions.
Guam, a United States territory, is truly a golfer's paradise. The island boasts 10 golf courses, with another couple in the planning stage. The layouts range from spectacular resort settings to user-friendly public course-style tracks.
Perhaps the best known is Mangilao Golf Club, famed for its par 3 12th hole. The 164- yard hole sits atop a coral bed and requires a 150-yard carry over the ocean to reach the green. Players who successfully navigate the green are awarded a certificate.
While the front nine is wide and forgiving, with water coming into play on only three holes, Mangilao becomes a different beast on the back nine with a series of spectacular oceanside holes that require strategic placement for tee shots.
Equally challenging is the Leo Palace Resort Country Club, a 27-hole track set on rugged terrain in the Manneggon Hills. The course hosted the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy (APGA) Tour event, the Guam Open, for three years in the mid-1990s and is anything but user-friendly.
With 18 holes designed by Arnold Palmer and another nine by Jack Nicklaus, the course offers a spectacular hilltop setting which is totally exposed to the elements and high winds. High scores should be expected.
Because of its hilltop setting, many of the holes at Leo Palace have sheer drop-offs which come into play, while several of the tee shots require players to sometimes carry more than 200 yards of scrub if they are to reach the greens or fairways.
The Guam International Country Club, the island's newest course, provides a more friendly layout with its undulating greens and palm tree-lined fairways.
The course, which was designed by Ronald Fream with input from Japanese LPGA great Ayako Okamoto, is unique as it was designed with the use of PVC liners to prevent chemicals, used in course maintenance, from seeping into a nearby water supply.
The well-planned drainage means the course is one of the best maintained layouts on the island with hard, fast greens.
The 7th hole, a 424-yard par 4 dog-leg right, where the tight fairway wraps around a lake all the way to a fairly small green, is an excellent test of golf.
At 7,188 yards, the Alte Golf Club Resorts boasts the longest layout on the island. With fairways which are wide and open, the municipal-style course is designed for golfers of all skill levels.
Particularly impressive is the par threes. Three are over water to elevated greens which are guarded by huge sand traps around the perimeter.
Other courses on the island include Windward Hills Country Club, Talofafo Golf Resort, Country Club of the Pacific, Guam Takayama Golf Course, Hatsuho International Country Club and the practice facility, Target Golf.
If you are looking for inexpensive golf, then Guam is not the place. The island is geared to Japanese tourists with green fees slightly less than those of Japan. Prices range from a low US$75 at Country Club of the Pacific in the off season (July to October) to a high of US$190 at Leo Palace on weekends during the high season of January to March.